Red Hook icon Erin Norris resurrects Grindhaus as OurHaus

Running a restaurant hasn’t been easy for Erin Norris. 

When the longtime Red Hook resident, retired dominatrix, one-time music publicist and former bar manager at the legendary Bait and Tackle, first tried to open her place in 2008 she had dreams that it would be, as she phrased it, a sausage parlor. Hence the name Grindhaus.

Unseen structural and regulatory roadblocks sent her construction costs soaring, however, and, ultimately, forced her to nix that plan because there wasn’t going to be enough room to make sausages anymore. Then after Norris switched gears and invested in an all new design, and bought all new equipment, Hurricane Sandy made a mess of the neighborhood and destroyed her kitchen. Norris, however, would not be deterred.

Fast forward past a ton of physical labor and a Kickstarter campaign to 2013, when Grindhaus, minus the sausages, finally opened. A decade of long nights, some critical acclaim, and lots of neighborhood love followed, until, last December, her chef abruptly “fucked off,” she says (meaning he quit), leaving her with a menu that neither she nor anyone else she knew could exceute. And so Norris, and Grindhaus, went dark.

“After so many years it just really started to weigh on my jaw, and I just felt like I wanted something a little more inclusive, where I didn’t have to rely on one person in the kitchen,” Norris tells Brooklyn Magazine. “So this time around there’s no mystery to how these dishes go. I can make them, my friends can come in and make them, or anyone can make whatever they want. It’s going to be a lot more fun, a lot more vital. Now, it’s OurHaus.”

The OurHaus head chef is Allie Gassaway, who used to be a server here in addition to cooking at places like Fort Defiance and Mission Chinese. The menu is filled with slightly offbeat delights: There are bar snacks like arancini, the one-bite rice balls stuffed with crumbles of funky Chinese sausage, bits of mushroom for added earthiness, then fried to a crisp.

Arancini, $14 (Scott Lynch)

Also fried, and also good, are Gassaway’s kimchi dumplings, which arrive soaking in a pool of coconut chili oil sauce.

Kimchi dumps, $20 (Scott Lynch)

The “crock of shit” (the day’s pate; it was chicken liver on the night we went) is served slabs of toast as mouth shovels. Several guests seemed to enjoying their pair of punnily named “lamb bao-ghinis,” drenched in minty yogurt sauce and sprinkled with garlic chips, but we went with something brighter for our mid-meal course, a bowl of yellowtail ceviche buried beneath vinegary herbs, a few bits of bird’s eye chili livening the party up.

Yellowtail ceviche, $23 (Scott Lynch)

There are a few entree-sized dishes available, including some spinach ricotta gnudi, a Vietnamese-vibing beef dish served with vermicelli and lettuce cups, and a stoner-food beast called “St Marks flashback chicken,” the panko coated chicken breast rolled and fried and oozing Velveeta all over your mounds of slaw. Norris told us the dish was inspired by late nights at Zen Sushi in the East Village back in the 1990s.

St. Marks flashback chicken, $26 (Scott Lynch)

Gassaway’s Juicy Lucy hits the late-night menu at 10 p.m., a messy burger, wet with queso and hatch chiles. Dessert is a creamy chocolate pudding topped with locally sourced graham crumble (from Steve’s Key Lime) and crushed hard candy (from the deli down the block). There’s plenty of booze, of course, including beer, cider, sake and wines by the glass or bottle.

Chocolate pudding with Key Lime Steve’s graham crumble (Scott Lynch)

The design is all Norris, a chaotic, sexily-lit display of art, photography, and rock-n-roll nostalgia. Her playlist is awesome, with the likes of Wreckless Eric segueing into “Satellite of Love” segueing into that World Party 1993 hit, “Is It Like Today?” And when OurHaus debuted on Valentine’s Day, her Red Hook regulars turned out in force. “They like our attitude,” she said. “It’s always going to be fun here. And it’s all put together with love. This is going to be great.”

OurHaus is located at 275 Van Brunt Street, between Pioneer Street and Visitation Place, and is currently open on Thursday through Monday from 6 p.m. to midnight, or possibly later if everyone’s having a good time. Text 347-597-3063 for reservations.    

The post Red Hook icon Erin Norris resurrects Grindhaus as OurHaus appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.

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